Clare Taylor, Customer Services Operations Manager at CMP tells us about her journey starting as an apprentice 19 years ago.

When did you start your apprenticeship training?

I started my British Engines commercial apprenticeship in July 1997, on a business administration apprenticeship through the North East Chamber of Commerce. The NECC provided the training at the time, whilst I worked at British Engines.

As a business administration apprentice, what did your job role involve?

The British Engines Group consisted of five companies in 1997; my apprenticeship was set up so that I could rotate around these companies. I started in BEL Valves within the document control department, working on quality documents relating to the valves for two months. I then moved into export shipping in CMP Products based at St Peter’s Basin at the time. I spent a short time in this department before moving into UK sales within CMP which involved speaking to customers, processing orders and invoicing.  In January 1998, I was offered a full time permanent role within CMP so I didn’t move to any of the other British Engines companies.

How did you find the transition from school to working life?

The transition to full time work was not difficult, as I always knew I wanted to leave school and find an apprenticeship. I had Saturday and summer jobs from the age of 13, working in a florist, catering and a butcher’s shop and so I was used to working whilst being at school.  The apprenticeship would give me the same flexibility to learn and study at the same time.  I still kept my Saturday job at the florist for the first two years of my apprenticeship as I enjoyed being busy.

Did you spend any time at college as part of your apprenticeship or was it all in-house based training?

I attended the North East Chamber of Commerce in Newcastle one day per week to gain my qualifications.

What qualifications did you gain from your apprenticeship?

Through my apprenticeship I gained an NVQ Level 2 and 3 in Business Administration, as well as a CLAIT computer qualification.

After completing your apprenticeship, what options were presented to you?

After completion, I remained in the UK sales department for a further two years whilst working towards an ILM First Line Management qualification at Portland College.

How did you progress into the role you are in now?

Once I gained my ILM qualification, I progressed to Sales Office Supervisor where I was responsible for the UK/Europe sales admin team for a period of two years. I then progressed to the role of Customer Services Manager managing the quotations, export shipping and projects departments as well as UK/Europe sales admin. Due to the demands of the business, a year ago I also became responsible for the assembly, packing and despatch departments, in order to manage the full process from orders in to orders going out. My current role today is Customer Services Operations Manager.

Have you gained any further qualifications throughout your time at CMP?

In November 2015, I gained a BA Hons Degree in Leadership and Management which involved four years of part time study. I am also currently working towards an ILM Level 5 in Coaching and Mentoring.

What do you enjoy most about your role?

I really enjoy the variety and the parts of my job that involve aspects like problem solving, developing people and dealing with customers. Every day is different as I deal with all areas of the business including quality, finance, engineering and maintenance.  The business has changed significantly since I began working in CMP 19 years ago, but it is very interesting and rewarding to work in a business that is constantly evolving with the times.

What challenges did you face throughout your different roles at CMP?

As I have progressed through different roles, I think the biggest challenge for me was to develop the people reporting to me at the same time as developing myself.  This was very important as if there was nobody able to take on parts of my previous roles, then I may not have been in the position to progress further as the work still needed to be done by someone.

Do you think you would be in the position you are today had you not carried out an apprenticeship and perhaps went to university instead?

No I don’t. I learn best through being hands on, so an apprenticeship allowed me to gain experience with the added benefit of working towards a qualification. I strongly believe I would not have achieved a 2:1 in my degree, had it not been for the experience I gained through working. I enjoyed studying for my degree, as I could relate theories of management through my working experience as a manager.

What advice would you give to anyone considering an apprenticeship?

It’s the best thing I’ve ever done. British Engines is a great company to do an apprenticeship with as there is so much investment put into training and development, and this does not just stop once you have completed your apprenticeship.

Another thing I would say is that apprenticeships are great at providing you with a structure and a routine to get into working life, but not lose touch with studying. It is demanding having to work full time and gain qualifications at the same time, but this helps to mature and develop you as a person. You have to be very committed and dedicated which means managing every hour of your time effectively.